I have a fair amount of privilege. I am white, thin, able-bodied, able-minded with medication, cis, binary… the only privileges I do not have are male privilege and straight privilege. One privilege of mine that I spend little time thinking about is my class privilege. I was born into a middle class family and live in an area where my neighbors have incomes similar to my parents’ incomes. I’ve never felt embarrassed by my financial situation. We’ve always had food: healthy food, even. Our house has air conditioning. I have health insurance and visit the doctor regularly. The list goes on.
I attend a college that costs almost sixty thousand dollars total each year. Although my own bill is much lower than that thanks to grants and scholarships, the fact that I was even able to consider attending the school shows how luck I am. Oberlin is filled with middle class students like me. Our “hardships” are having to buy used cars instead of new cars and dealing with slow computers instead of getting upgrades. Literally. It’s not too hard to be middle class.
Although it’s a good thing to realize and acknowledge the privileges one has, it means nothing unless one changes their actions. And I haven’t been doing that. As an example, my friend could not attend Oberlin because he did not receive enough aid, and I became upset with him. Another friend spent a hundred dollars at the mall while not having any toilet paper in the house, and I questioned her choice on what to buy. Similarly, I recently read a post on Tumblr made by someone who has been told numerous times by friends to have her infected wisdom teeth removed. I can see myself doing that without questioning whether the person could afford the operation.
Too often, I assume that everyone can afford the same things that I do, and, when I realize that not everyone is middle class, I try to “help them out.” This involves ordering them to spend their money a certain way. You know what I’m talking about. “I can’t believe she bought a CD instead of buying vitamins!” “You adopted a dog? Don’t you think you should get your glasses repaired before making frivolous purchases?”
For some reason, I and other middle class people think that we have a right to tell other people how to manage their finances. This is interesting because I am middle class only because I am a child of middle class parents. I am not a finance expert, and the financial situation of my household has nothing to do with me or my actions.
I do not expect any spectacular compliments due to noticing my poor actions. This post is a reminder to myself that I don’t have a right to tell other people what to do, especially people who lack the many privileges I have.
A resource: http://whatever.scalzi.com/2005/09/03/being-poor